Between flying 64 combat missions in WWII, breaking the sound barrier in the Bell X-1, commanding the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilots School, and receiving many high honors for his service, it’s obvious why Chuck Yeager is such an icon in the aviation industry. Like many important figures throughout history, Chuck rather enjoyed a fine watch, and he definitely knew how to pick them.
October 14th, 1947 is arguably the day when Yeager’s documented use of Rolex watches began, and it also happened to be the same day he broke the sound barrier while test piloting the X-1. Photos from this now historic event show what possibly appears to be a 34mm Rolex Oyster on the wrist of Yeager. The exact reference still remains unknown, even to those regarded as experts, but some possibilities include the 6422, the 1002, or maybe even the 6480. All of these watches were very legible, extremely reliable, and built to last.
What could potentially be described as the quintessential watch of Mr. Yeager, is the Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538. Regardless of whether you call it the “Big Crown” or the “James Bond”, this watch’s significance is quite honestly unmeasurable, in that it’s had such a profound impact on all dive watches that would come out after it. Today, the 6538 is one of, if not the most highly coveted Submariner in the vintage market, and with just a brief glance you can easily understand why.
Some may look at this as a strange choice for a pilot, but rest assured, Chuck would eventually come around to notably wearing another iconic Rolex sports reference, this time designed with pilots in mind.
The watch we speak of is of course, the GMT Master II (Ref. 16710). Though this piece may seem rather mainstream and unexciting, so to speak, in the eyes of a modern collector, like any seasoned pilot, Chuck had a way of simply making it cool, and embracing the functionality.
Now at the age of 92 years old, Chuck Yeager is impressively continuing to make contributions to the aerospace field and community, still with a Rolex on his wrist. Lately, he’s been spotted wearing a modern 36mm Datejust, featuring polished centerlinks – an appropriate choice of wristwatch for a man of his age. Mr. Yeager has lived a genuinely fascinating life, and his association with Rolex is just another reason why we love the history-rich brand so much. Remember, the watch itself is only half of what makes a watch great. The other 50% is accounted for by the people, stories, and historical context that goes along with it.
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